Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.
There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves. Often we can appreciate delicate images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety of reasons, but no one can deny how well-crafted art serves a purpose. Art can point us to the good in humanity, echoing ancient truths. Beautiful art feeds our souls.
As we write, we can organize our words in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together. Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents. Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Lovely sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. These words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together.
How can you make your words more beautiful?
1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun.
2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion.
3. Don’t let sentences start with “There was” or “There were.”
4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence but don’t make it passive.
5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make.
6. Use Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference!
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling
7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening.
8. Substitute every word for a synonym to see what you come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi-syllable words may muddy your meaning.
9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be of varying lengths. This is a bit hard to read, but you can get the point.
10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether. At this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?
And here are some of my favorite blog posts on the beauty of words:
Famous Poetic Words. The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor.
Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.
This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my everyday use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated!
The Last Words. Huffington Post has a list of the most beautiful last lines in literature that “will make you want to read the whole book.” (Hey kids! Who wants to go to the library with me today?)
Beautiful words are our medium. We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.
I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.
Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.
Sometimes they make me.